Monday, January 24, 2011

Solitary Retreats - One Reader's Experience

After *carrie* from with all that I've been given left a comment on my (Stephanie) post about Solitary Hospitality I asked her to share some of her experience with us. I hope this gives you ideas to use for your own solitary retreat.

Carrie, please share with us what first inspired you begin have a solitary retreat?

I am a reflective person by nature, and I've learned that journaling and time spent being quiet are imperative to me for processing emotions, experiences, what God is teaching me, etc. After my first child was born 4 years ago, I realized that I needed to be more intentional about taking this time. I think it was actually my husband who suggested I get away for a few hours--not to run errands or talk with a friend, though those are of course important activities--but to spend time in silence and reflection. My time was so refreshing that I committed to once a month "retreats," as I call them.

Are your retreats always the same? Same place, time, activities, or do they change every time?

I like a balance of consistency and variety. I always bring my Bible, pen, and journal (I'm partial to a regular old sprial notebook), and sometimes I bring another book dealing with Christian living. But I usually save the book for last because I want to make sure I have plenty of time to do the main objectives of writing, reflecting, praying, and being in the Word. During the first year of my retreats, I read a chapter each month from a book called Invitation to Solitude and Silence, by Ruth Haley Barton.

As for time and place, those depend on our schedule, the weather, etc. I have gone outside (to a soccer field and even to our local cemetery), cozied up on the couches of friends who were out of town (with prior permission, of course), and I've also just shut myself in our bedroom with the fan turned on to minimize distraction! I've found that two hours is often enough for me, but I'm sure everyone's experience is different. I have on a couple of occasions taken extended retreats that have lasted several hours.

How often do you do a solitary retreat and how long have you been doing then?

As stated earlier, I started taking personal retreats four years ago. That first year I was very committed to taking them once a month. When our second child was born the following spring, they tapered off to every other month. I do want to get back in the habit of taking them more often, and appreciated Stephanie's post to remind me of that!

Please share with us a lesson you learned from experiencing solitary retreats.

Being silent can be really difficult for many of us, but it is a vital practice. I love the compelling truth of Isaiah 30:15 where the LORD says, "In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength."

What tips do you have for those of us just starting this practice?

Other than the things I've already mentioned, I suggest that, if you tend to be busy-minded like me, you bring a notepad where you can jot down names of people you need to call, tasks for your to-do list, items you need from the store,etc. That may sound inappropriate for a "spiritual retreat," but I've found it very freeing to have a place to write those things down as they come to mind, and then move forward in my quiet time, instead of spending energy trying not to forget whatever it was I thought of in the first place!

I'm certainly not an expert when it comes to retreats, and as I've indicated, my own track record has veered from my goal of every month. On a recent Sunday, our pastor was installing someone new to the office of elder, and the person was asked to respond to each installation question by stating, "I will, and I ask God to help me." May that be true of me as well.

Thank you, Carrie, for sharing your experience and tips with us! I love the idea of using a friend's home for a retreat. As well as having a piece of paper to jot down those random thoughts!

Please leave a comment thanking Carrie for sharing with us. Be sure to include any tips or ideas you have that weren't mentioned. Also, today is Carrie's birthday, join me in wishing her a happy birthday!!


  1. Thank you, Carrie, for sharing more about your own personal experiences with us!

    And HAPPY BIRTHDAY as well! =)

  2. Thanks for sharing with us Carrie! And Happy Birthday! I also love the idea of bringing the note pad, so you can clear your mind and be more focused. My mind always wanders to what needs to be done and all those other distractions.

  3. Thank you, Carrie, for this reminder. I am on the other end of the spectrum. I am now retired and you would think that I have all the time in the world to "retreat". No, time still gets away. I am glad you used the word intentional. That is what I need to do. Thanks for the encouraging ideas.

  4. I used to do this in college, but then I called it a "date with God" because that's what a single girl does! I think it's a great thing to do, and something I need to do a lot more often.

    As an extension, this past fall I spent my first solo vacation (about 48 hours) alone in the mountains. I highly recommend it! It was so great to just get away, without technology (okay, I listened to audio books), interruptions, or a schedule.

  5. Thanks, Carrie! Your retreats inspired me from very early on when I first started reading your blog and am glad to read a bit of how these can be incorporated to a busy mom's life! Very practical ideas here for us busy mommies! :-) Appreciative of your wisdom and insight as always ~ happy birthday!

  6. Thanks, Stephanie and Carrie, for letting me share some thoughts here. I hope these posts will continue to challenge us in service, hospitality and fellowship with God and others!

  7. Thanks for sharing *carrie*! I really enjoyed this post. You have some great tips. Like the paper for random ideas. Boy do I get those!

    Barb, you are so right about needing to be intentional. No matter how busy we are or how much free time we have, we can always find things to do besides spending time with God. It's choosing him that matters.